By Blessing Williams, Lagos
Lagos State Government, on Friday, opened 50 neighbourhood food markets across the State to serve as makeshift groceries for residents to buy food items, as confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) increases the chance of possible stringent measures.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a briefing on Friday, 27 March, 2020, disclosed that the initiative was necessary, hinting that the State Government may take “tougher decisions” if the confirmed cases of coronavirus surpass the threshold set by the State.
Sanwo-Olu said that there had been a “strange trend” recorded by the State in its response to the viral epidemic, hinting that some of the new infections showed Lagos may be entering a phase of community transmission of the disease.
The establishment of the neighbourhood food markets was a follow-up to the creation of 10 food banks strategically positioned across the State, which is targeted at feeding over 200,000 vulnerable households that earn daily wage to feed.
He said: “We have started to see a trend that suggests we may be entering the phase of community transmission of the disease. I’m response to this, we are formally launching our Neighborhood Markets scheme. We have 50 large public-school premises across the State that can accommodate temporary open markets where we will have essential food items and household items available for sale at affordable rates.
“These Neighborhood Markets will operate every two days, and will help achieve a number of goals that are all in line with the guidelines of the health authorities. The markets will reduce journey times for the residents. By extension, it reduce the time people will spend in public and will also help to maintain social distancing requirements.”
The Governor also signed the Lagos State Infectious Diseases Regulation 2020 into law to give legal backing to the ongoing enforcement of restrictive measures being taken by the State Government to contain the spread of the virus.
The regulation, Sanwo-Olu said, prescribes stringent penalties to defaulters of directives and guidelines issued by the Government to stop community transmission of COVID-19.
As cases of COVID-19 surges, Sanwo-Olu said he would not rule out possible lockdown of the State in the coming days, urging the residents to brace for tougher measures. The Governor, however, said the treatment and management of the confirmed cases at Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) had not overwhelmed the State.
Going by the nature of spread of the virus in other countries, the Governor said every human was at risk of contracting the disease, stressing that the response strategy to defeat the pandemic required collective effort and cooperation of residents.
“I have said again and again that this fight is a collective one; we are all in it together,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu praised President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership and support of the effort by Lagos Government to stop the epidemic. He said the release of N10 billion grant to the State was a recognition of Lagos as epicentre of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
He also appreciated the contributions of members of the organised private sector that supported the State’s effort by donation of cash, medical equipment and building of isolation centres.
The Governor said efforts were ongoing to halt community transmission, revealing that agents of the Government had already started state-wide fumigation. This, he said, would be followed up by mass sensitisation and advocacy to disseminate information to residents at the grassroots.